Immigrants Subject to Hate Speech in Comments

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Immigrants Subject to Hate Speech in Comments

Intercultural Day Reykjavík 2013

From the Multicultural Day in Reykjavík in 2013. Photo: Zoë Robert.

A new analysis of hateful comments on news stories in the Icelandic online media was presented yesterday, showing that racist comments based on stereotypes are common and that immigrants who participate in the dialogue often fall victim to hate speech.

The analysis was conducted by Bjarney Friðriksdóttir, a PhD student in European Law, and she presented her results at the meeting of the City of Reykjavík’s Human Rights Council yesterday.

“It’s as if immigrants shouldn’t be allowed to express their opinions on affairs concerning them,” Anna Kristinsdóttir, director of Reykjavík City’s Human Rights Office, told Fréttablaðið.

Of the 14,815 comments analyzed, 75 percent were written by men and 25 by women. Most prejudiced comments targeted Muslims and comments characterized by nationalism or neo-racism were also common, as stated in a press release from Reykjavík City.

Bjarney studied comments on the subjects asylum seekers/refugees, people of foreign origin/immigrants, the building of a mosque in Reykjavík, gender equality, feminism, sexual violence and LGBTQI people from March 2013 to March 2014.

The study showed that when a person of foreign origin comments on an issue, an Icelander is usually quick to discredit that person’s reputation with a comment along the lines of: “these people should be sent back to their home countries.” In the commenting system, people of foreign origin don’t appear to be entitled to having a critical voice in society.

The study further showed that prejudiced comments often reveal that those commenting lack knowledge on the limitations of the freedom of speech and what laws on human rights exist in Iceland.

There is also a link between the tone of an article and the comments which appear alongside it. If the article presents a subject in a prejudiced manner, it leads to prejudiced comments, the study concluded.

The analysis made special note of the comments concerning the subject of the building of the mosque in Reykjavík, which were particularly hateful and characterized by neo-racism, racism and nationalism.

The comments included death threats and other personal attacks on one of the representatives of the Muslim Association of Iceland.

The study mentioned that a group of eight to ten people is especially active in commenting on the subject of the building of a mosque in Reykjavík and Muslims in Iceland, some of whom run websites with hate speech and scare tactics against Muslims.

In June it was reported that Salmann Tamimi, founder of the Muslim Association of Iceland, was suing for hate speech. He and his lawyer, Helga Vala Helgadóttir, stated it was important to make a stand against such comments.

However, in relation with the Israel-Palestine conflict late last month, Salmann faced criticism because of a comment he wrote on a story in The Jerusalem Post, where he said he hoped dead Israeli soldiers would go “to hell.”

In an interview with visir.is, Salmann said he stood by his comment. “Yes, these people are calling the soldiers heroes. They are murderers who kill our children. I simply told them to go to hell.” Salmann is originally from Palestine.

Reykjavík’s application to become an Intercultural City is currently being processed by the European Council. Sixty cities are on the list and in order for Reykjavík to be included, the city must pass the council inspectors’ appraisal of how its immigrants are treated. The inspectors are expected to arrive in Reykjavík this coming autumn, Fréttablaðið reports.

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